I’m Not Ready for a Relationship — at Least Not With You

The truth behind the most evasive dating line

Image licensed from Canva

I’m not sure if it speaks volumes about my low self-esteem, my bad perspective on life or it describes my reality, but I have always thought that I was quite the unlucky one when it comes to romantic relationships. I have been dumped and ghosted, mocked and ridiculed, left without a word by people who I thought would stay in my life forever.

And while I don’t want to undo every break-up, I wouldn’t want to escape from the learnings of heartbreak, I tended to feel that I am always the one worth leaving.

Until recently…

I don’t know if I grew up or managed to obtain a more mature and more objective view on life, but I start to think that I am not always the one who is dumped or ghosted, I am doing it just as much — only I don’t realize how many opportunities end because of me.

I have heard the phrase “I am not ready for a relationship” only too many times, enough to fill a couple of books with desperate or hilarious love stories. All my dating fiascos, my terrible online dating experiences, my stories about ridiculous opening lines are sort of just dispersing into the mass of the people I ghosted, I dumped and I left on “read” forever.

But when it’s me doing it, I always know the reason. I know why I never replied. I know which line was the last straw. I know which funny attempt triggered my past traumas and raised some red flags.

It’s always nice to be the one who knows the reasons.

But life and relationships are not this simple. We don’t always get the answers, and sometimes we don’t even ask the right questions. We beat ourselves up about situations and people who don’t deserve it and we assign importance to events that are due to pure misunderstanding at the best, or plain stupidity at the worst.

“I am not ready for a relationship”. Such an evasive line. Such a lie. Such a horror to read it — because these days we never hear this anymore, we are left with a screen, a few words, and maybe an ellipsis that eventually goes away without further explanation.

I have read it a few times, and I wrote it myself even more times. But what does it really mean? Can it have some splinter of truth or does it always mean the worst, namely that you are not enough for that other one?

What does this sentence mean, beyond the obvious, that ‘I am not ready for a relationship with you’?

My feelings are not strong enough, but I don’t know how to say it kindly

Maybe you are a really great person. Maybe you are even amazing. Maybe it’s really not you, it’s me. But for some reason, I don’t have it in me emotionally to get into a relationship with you. Yes, I might be looking for a relationship, I am craving love and affection — but not from you, I am sorry.

Maybe you feel that we have amazing chemistry — and it can’t be faked, right? But I just simply don’t feel it. We can have a good time together, maybe we have amazing talks, we laugh a lot and maybe the sex is good too. But there is something missing. And while it sounds like a commonplace, it is missing from me. I can’t feel what I want to feel. I can be attracted to you and still, I might not want to get into a relationship.

It’s not your fault. I think it’s not mine either.

It’s just not happening. We might give it a try, but if the spark is missing, if something feels off, you need to take my word for it, I am not ready for you — or you are not who I want you to be.

But I like you and I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to suggest that you might not be good enough for me, because this is not the case. It’s just not working out, and I already know it.

You triggered something in me that makes me want to run

Maybe I have been hurt in the past. Maybe so badly that no matter how much I want a relationship, the realness of it, the signs that I am wanted and needed, scares the living hell out of me. Maybe your attempts to make me feel safe and loved are triggering me in ways I never imagined. And while I thought I would be ready for a relationship, now that I see it close-up, I can see that I still have a lot to process and work out with myself.

Maybe you are raising red flags for me — and maybe they are only there because I am too damaged not to look for them. Or maybe they are signalling real danger — at least danger for me.

Whatever it is about, something in our interaction makes me want to run and hide — and this is exactly what I am doing. I am running away from you, because of me.

But it is difficult to admit that I am damaged and hurt — especially to admit it to myself. It is a lot easier and safer to say that I am not ready for a relationship and to leave it like that, hoping that the next one who comes along will find me in a better place.

I am dating others, and I am still looking — not ready to give up my other options

In this dating culture, we all have a great variety of options. Online dating provides an infinite pool of potential partners and maybe I am just not ready to give up my other options to commit in general or to you.

It can be that you are not checking every box that I defined for my desired partner, or it can be that I am still hopeful that a better match comes along — but bottom line is, I enjoy too much the hunt (or to be hunted) to settle down just now.

Maybe we discussed this already and we have been transparent with each other, but it can happen that I still feel that I am cheating on you with my other romantic interests. Or maybe you agreed to it only half-heartedly, hoping that you wouldn’t be replaced by anyone else. It can also be that you have been arrogant enough about the qualities that you wouldn’t believe that someone could be a better fit for me, or that I still need the variety.

Telling you that I am not ready for a relationship is half true because I am not ready to settle down with you, or maybe not with anyone. Trust me, this is the best compromise we can have and I am doing you a favour when I am letting you go.

I see what you need and I can’t give it to you, so it’s easier to end it early

When I say that I am not ready for a relationship with you, it can be that I am finally honest with myself. And with you. I am not playing games, I am not trying to manipulate you, I am not playing hard to get. I see what you expect from me and I see it clearly that I can’t give it to you.

For reasons that I might not disclose, I am not fully invested in moving forward with you. Maybe the lack of chemistry, maybe lack of vision or simply the lack of matching energy, but I can’t give you what you need and I think you shouldn’t live off the scraps that I am willing to throw every now and then, if ever.

And while it might hurt you now, trust me, it’s a lot better than to be cheated on, ghosted or hurt in any other way — I know, because I have been on that side of hurt too many times, and I wish my partners had the decency to tell me they weren’t ready for a relationship — in general, or with me.

I am too selfish to get into a relationship, I want to focus on myself for now

This last one has the most truth to it. When I say that I am not ready, it is entirely possible that I am really not ready. I thought I would be, but I have to see that relationships take a lot of work that I can’t afford right now.

I have other priorities, other focus points in my life, and I need this time for myself.

If I told you that I have other priorities, such as my work and my passion, I would be labelled too ambitious, too bossy, too much. If I said I want to focus on me, I would get the selfish branding.

Focusing on priorities that I defined for myself or concentrating on myself are not bossy, too ambitious or selfish. They are normal and they are my choices.

So, it is easier to just say I am not ready, and take the blame for it, instead of hurting someone else’s feeling when it is clearly just about me.

If someone tells you they are not ready for a relationship, believe them and move on. Because the one that wants to be with you will not manipulate you and toy with you. And you want to be with someone who wants to be with you — not someone who avoids you and sends you mixed signals.

Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store